360. Telegram From the Department of State to the Mission to the United Nations1

6581. Please deliver at once following message from Secretary of State to Foreign Minister Eban reported at Plaza Hotel.

Dear Mr. Minister:

We have today received a most urgent and private message from King Hussein.2 This message informs us that the King has determined that he is prepared to conclude some sort of arrangement with the Government of Israel. In the meeting in Cairo he apparently informed Nasser of the possibility that he may undertake such an action. The exact steps and the circumstances under which negotiation might be possible are yet to be determined and the timing is, of course, a matter of major importance.

In our opinion this is a major act of courage on the part of King Hussein and offers the first important breakthrough toward peace in the current period following active hostilities. It is an opportunity in our judgment that must not be lost, offering as it does a chance to embark on a course in the Arab world which could lead to an acceptance of Israel by its neighbors and to steps which could well change the whole course of history in the Middle East.

We wish that time were available for us to consider abstractly and unrelated to immediate problems all of the issues that are involved in this offer. But we believe we have tomorrow in the vote in the United Nations on the Pakistan resolution an opportunity to pave the way for positive steps in the days ahead—an opportunity that must not be lost. With the knowledge of King Hussein’s willingness to risk a very [Page 649] great deal, certainly including his own security, it is imperative, we think, that your government take a step in connection with the consideration of the future of Jerusalem that would be in harmony with the courage shown by the King and which will facilitate negotiations in the days ahead of us. We urge that you attempt to make the broadest kind of gesture possible with respect to the future of Jerusalem. We urge especially that you make a generous offer with respect to the future of Jerusalem that would in effect explicitly interpret as interim the administrative arrangements recently placed in effect with respect to that city. We would also hope that your country could offer more explicitly to enter into international arrangements for a city which would assure that all religions and all faiths have access to the holy places. The offer might include a willingness to discuss with Jordan directly or otherwise the future of the old city based on the concept of universality, possibly pointing to Jordan as the spokesman for the Arab world in view of its location in relation both to Israel and to Jerusalem itself.

Let me add that as you know our own position on Jerusalem has for some years supported its international character, a position to which we still adhere.

The matter is urgent. The events of tomorrow in the General Assembly may have an important bearing on the greatest opportunity we have yet seen to achieve what you and your country have wanted and have suffered through two wars to achieve. I urge your most careful and urgent consideration of this matter. The more moderate and generous the position of Israel tomorrow, the greater the chance that there can be a good result from Hussein’s new readiness.

For Tel Aviv:

To save time and emphasize importance we attached to this message Ambassador should deliver it at once to highest available official with urgent informal suggestion it go at once to Eskhol if Eban has not yet had time to report it.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Middle East Crisis, Sandstorm/Whirlwind. Top Secret; Flash; Nodis; Sandstorm. The telegram indicates Battle as the drafter and that the text was revised at the White House; cleared by Walt Rostow; and approved by Rusk. Repeated Flash to Tel Aviv. “Sandstorm” is written by hand on the telegram. Telegram 6593 to Tel Aviv and USUN, July 14, stated that all cable traffic relating to telegram 6581 should be designated Nodis; Sandstorm, because the Department wished to give it maximum security. (Ibid.)
  2. Telegram 4941 from Amman, July 13, reported a conversation between King Hussein and Ambassador Burns in which the King stated he was prepared to make a unilateral settlement with Israel, and that he had discussed this with Nasser, who had said he would raise no objections if Hussein raised this with the Americans. The King said he would like to know what the Israelis would be likely to do vis-à-vis Jordan if he were prepared for a settlement. He said Jordan would have to get back substantially all it lost in the war, including the Jordanian sector of Jerusalem. He also said it was essential that Jordan obtain some arms immediately. (National Archives and Records Administration, Central Files 1967–69, POL 27–14 ARAB–ISR/SANDSTORM)